Orchestre Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou | Mayne Stage | International | Chicago Reader

Orchestre Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou Recommended 18+ Early Warnings (Music) Soundboard

When: Wed., July 11, 8 p.m. 2012

Two summers ago this floor-shaking voodoo-funk band, formed in 1968 in the capital city of the West African nation of Benin, gave a knockout performance in Millennium Park, one of a handful of stops on their first-ever U.S. tour. In their 60s and 70s heyday they probably released more than 50 LPs and hundreds of singles, combining voodoo rhythms with Afrobeat and Afro-Cuban music, and lately they've put out their first new material in two decades—2005's Nouvelle Formule (IACP) and last year's Cotonou Club (Strut). This activity, which also led to the group's resurrection as a live act, was spurred in part by a series of crucial re­issues from European labels beginning in 2003—a process of rediscovery and reappraisal that has helped Orchestre Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou claim its place as one of Africa's greatest bands. Cotonou Club doesn't match the brilliance of the group's earlier peaks—the modern production sands away the rawness that made the vintage albums especially thrilling, some of the songs are remakes of old favorites (a minor quibble, considering how few people have heard the originals), and one track is an incongruous collaboration with the rock band Franz Ferdinand, whose input is fortunately all but drowned out when Poly-Rythmo's horns kick in. I'm not really complaining, though—it's a small miracle that this group still exists, and Cotonou Club ought to appeal to fans who discovered the band through its funkiest old stuff. Poly-Rythmo dish out driving, triple-feel voodoo grooves on song after song, including a cover of the Gnonnas Pedro classic "Von Vo Nono" and a remake of their own high-velocity "Gbeti Madjro" with guest singer Angelique Kidjo, and revisit the Afro-Cuban vibes and straight-up Afrobeat that colored their work back in the day. As terrific as the Millennium Park show was, it should be even more exciting to hear them in this relatively intimate space. —Peter Margasak

Price: $28-$38

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